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Archive for August, 2012

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Humans don’t do Logic, our brains aren’t wired that way.

The human brain does lots of amazing things, but Logic really isn’t one of them.  In order to get something approaching Logic, first you need to search through the whole child population and sift out the likeliest candidates, then train and cull them rigorously for many years. Then, keep what’s left in an academic bubble, while you feed them problems to work on. And finally, rigorously peer review everything that they produce, in multiple times and ways, in order to find if there is still some way they have managed to screw up the process.

In theory, Logic is as straight forward as things get.  1+1=2.  Ta-Daa.

What could be easier?  But it’s not easy is it.  How many of us excelled at maths?  How many of the people you know who did excel at maths, were kind of a little weird?

Interestingly; academia, the scientific method, maths, physics, engineering, even philosophy… are all versions (or extensions) of Logic.  First came “(big P)Philosophy” back with the ancient Greeks, they had the first recognised School of Philosophy.  What they were looking for was “Truth”.  As things evolved, that school broke apart into several other disciplines as the core of the search for truth had some specific practical implications.  Logic: as applied to Numbers yields Maths.  Logic: as applied to Alchemy yields Chemistry.  Etc, etc.

Philosophy reduced and shorn of its sub categories became rather anal and navel gazing – and yet it also returned to its core as well – what is the meaning and nature of Truth?  How do you Know something is True?  Because you apply logic, and test it.  Simple.

When it is done to the physical world with engineering it yields wonders. Craft weighing hundreds of tons that soar through the sky. Buildings hundreds of stories high. Bridges eight lanes wide spaning miles carrying thousands of vehicles at one time.  Men landed on the moon. Nuclear power and weapons. Telephones you can carry in your pocket that can make instant contact worldwide.  It is stupendous and almost beyond belief.  Logic works.  And as long as everyone sticks strictly to the rules, all our technical wonders continue to work.

But interestingly, the trick isn’t about following the rules (we can train the Upright-Monkeys to follow the rules), the trick is developing the rules in the first place.  The secrets of the universe aren’t really that secret.  They are sitting there staring us in the face mostly.  The problem is our ability to recognise what we are looking at.  If you were designing intelligence, you wouldn’t do it the way we are put together.  Humans are a result of an accretion process. Various systems that worked at one time or another layered onto another, pretty much at random. If it worked (more or less) then fine. If not they expired. Evolution.  To suggest that it is all a beautifully integrated, planned creation is a failure of logic at it best.  Beautifully human you might say.

Lets return to maths for a moment.  1+1=2.  Most of us can figure that without difficulty.  As the numbers get bigger we can struggle, but the basic principle stays the same and we can nut it out eventually.  2772561+3468255= what?

6540716 as it happens. (Or does it?  Check my addition)

Even subtraction, multiplication and division are generally within our competence – with enough time and effort invested.  But: Area of a Circle = Pi x R squared… is beyond the vast majority of people.  And not only just to be able to calculate the rule.  But to comprehend why that works, to be able to prove it, to understand the relationship between the various elements, and to figure it from scratch.  That is such a freakishly abnormal quality and ability that the people who can do it get theorems named after them and are remembered throughout history. Pythagoras is an example: A2 + B2 = C2 (care to explain why that works?).  Archimedes is another.  Great minds, but definitely not normal either.

The problem is, those are the easy ones, it just gets massively more complicated from there.  And that’s just Maths.  Now try applying logic to those parts of the human condition that resist it.  This does throw up some rather interesting issues though.  Why do we resist it?

There are two immediately obvious answers to that. One is that our brains just aren’t basically wired that way.  The other is that we don’t want to be logical.

Getting the wired argument out of the way first.  Our brains are not binary computers, they don’t work with zero’s and ones, on or off, yes or no.  The cells of our brain have myriads of connections to each other and computes a myriad of possible alternatives.  That has advantages and disadvantages.  It means you can imagine something that doesn’t yet exist, you can perceive things from different perspectives, and we can make connections when there is only partial, or incomplete information.   On the negative side – we can make connections when there is only partial or incomplete information.  We can come to conclusions based on completely unrelated facts – and be convinced we are correct.  The whole cause and effect thing can be so spectacularly screwed up it can beggar believe to an objective observer.  A+B+C= …Z.   Ummm… NO.  But best of luck trying to explain that to a true believer.  In their head are all the “Facts” necessary to reach their conclusion.  The fact the Z does not =A+B+C, provable by a process of logic, only means your process is wrong, not their thinking and conclusion…  I won’t even bother going into demonstrating the many, many ways that type of thinking happens and is demonstrated daily.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of all this though, is how we choose not to apply logic.  Because it suits us not to.  There are whole industries of human enterprise that would fall over if logic was a fundamental requirement, so it is in the interests of a lot of people that it never is.  Organised, institutionalised religions do not fare well with logic. Nether do a lot of financial situations. But most significantly, the essence of Politics, is the art of obfuscating logic.

The whole basis of public relations, propaganda, factionalism, two party political systems, lawyers, spin, strawman arguments, marketing… is to deliberately create anti-logic.  To create something that can sound logical, but is deliberately not: A+B+C=Z.  In fact often the smartest minds on the planet are dedicated to pulling this type of wool over our eyes.  For the pure and simple reason that it is very profitable. And they can. And most people are incapable of figuring the difference between bullshit and truth; between the logical and illogical.  How can you fight what you cannot even see?

Unfortunately if that was all there was to it, the problem might be solvable – show someone the truth and the light, and they are thereafter inoculated against that untruth.  But the problem goes much deeper.  We also believe what we want to believe.  As far back as the beginning of the Bible, it has been recognised that there is very little to be done to help those who will not see.  So we see what we want to see, and politicians have continued to sell us the lies we want to believe in.

Realistically it is not a redeemable situation, we are the way we are.  Researchers investigating the human process of making decisions reached some enlightening and disturbing conclusions.  They found that when presented with a choice between two options, in order to make a decision, we intrinsically needed to have an emotional attachment to one of the options or outcomes.  Without any emotional connection we become unable to decide.  In other words, we don’t care about logic, we care about what we want, and that is the only consideration involved.  Our thinking brains are only a rudimentary and supplementary adjunct to our emotional minds.  Frankly, we’re not that bright.  The fact that Science has managed to accelerate so rapidly over the last hundred years or so, only demonstrates what would be possible if we could think clearly.  Instead, humanity has spent thousands of years in ignorance, and believing in nonsense.

Until and unless we could fundamentally remake human physiology, we will continue to be illogical.  We will be wrong about most of the things we believe, and the conclusions we reach.  Because we want to be, and because too often we can get away with it…

Until we can’t.

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The problem isn’t that there are no solutions to our problems.

The problem is – we can’t see them, and we don’t want to see them.  They would conflict with the conclusions we have already reached in out minds.

Real solutions would require that we change our mind:   something else we are not good at.

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Round up

 

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Here’s a few things I had lying around that I had though I might write Posts about.

Instead I will just summarize and aggregate them here, and leave it at that.

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Swarm of Locusts.

There is no intent to build a middle class, to lift people generally, to employ people who then buy your products and services with their salaries.  No, this is a swarm of locusts.  The only intent is to strip-mine the labor and poison the land, air and water.  As soon as the people who you have been abusing get tired of it and start pushing back, you simply leave.

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Essentially that’s what politics is primarily all about – feeding people lies they want to believe in – just to get elected.

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Some have suggested that there is data to suggest that an oil shock may have been the catalyst that put us into a new trajectory.

Well, my intuition says one thing — the change in trajectory correlates very precisely with the end of the Bretton Woods system. My intuition says that that event was a seismic shift for wages, for gold, for oil, for trade.

The data seems to support that the end of the Bretton Woods system correlates beautifully to a rise in income inequalitya downward shift in total factor productivitya huge upward swing in credit creationthe beginning of financialisation, the beginning of a new stage in globalisation, and a myriad of other things.

But while oil production recovered and prices fell, wages continued to stagnate. This suggests very strongly to me that the long-term issue was not an oil shock, but the fundamental change in the nature of the global trade system and the nature of money that took place in 1971 when Richard Nixon ended Bretton Woods.

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Some revolutions are based on lies, and some are based on inspiration, but all of them require men to conquer their own apathy and fear of confrontation.  This is no easy task, and it sometimes takes years or decades of social adaptation and organization.

The real question is; where is the tipping point?  What causes a population to tolerate or ignore certain crimes by governments, but not others?  Where is the line in the sand that if crossed, turns an apprehensively meek citizen into an “enemy of the state” ready to lay down his life against the very system he was born into?

When people consider the revolution that gave birth to the Americans republic, they tend to forget the long struggle that was necessary to rally support for a declaration of liberties.  No society, no matter how right in their position, and no matter how heinous the tyranny, jumps directly behind the muzzle of a gun to solve the problem.  Revolution takes time…

The internal strife of a nation is not predicated on the transitory moods of its people but the attitude of its government.  Revolutions are not waged by happy men in an honorable land. 

True revolutions are a product of generations of discontent stemming from dishonest and vicious bureaucracy.  An government facing a wave of discord from the masses has done something to deserve it.  I do not relish the idea of a revolt, but if I am to be honest in the face of the facts, I have to acknowledge the potential for one within my lifetime.

Unless tomorrow brings a miraculous shift in current totalitarian trends, revolution may be all we have left…

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At this point I am just going to take it as read that the only remedy to a hopelessly corrupted system, is revolution – and that that is exactly our situation.  I am certainly not going to argue the toss with anyone.  You either believe, or you don’t. Whatever.

For a summation of all that – if you are interested:  Summary-Link

So from here on, when I do write Posts, they will be exclusively about alternative/future options and plans.

However they are also likely to be much more infrequent.  I have a life I would rather be living than writing a blog that next to no-one reads.

And, we are still a long way from getting the kind of action happening that will make any difference worth mentioning. To lift a couple of quotes from the article I linked to above:

Time to dig out your old, dog-eared, well highlighted copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, by Robert Pirsig.  One of the chief tenets of this philosopher is that nothing of note will happen until you are totally stuck. Till you have hit that point on your own personal journey where you literally are stopped in your tracks.  Then you are going to have to invent a way out, create a breakthrough, or perish. Until a few tens of millions ‘get stuck’, don’t expect a whole lot of revolution.

Do you really think there will be a revolt in a country where so many of the people are obese.  First, revolting is too much effort. Throwing rocks, burning things, killing people and storming big government buildings, it requires a bit of physical exercise.

Second, being obese means you are not hungry. There will only be a revolt when people are hungry. They are not hungry.  So, you can wait for the revolt until people are lean and mean.

That will take a long time.

Yes, yes it will.  And…

Freeing ourselves of self-serving Elites would certainly create an opening for structural transformation that is currently impossible, but the transformation will require changing much of what the average citizen takes for granted as a “given” or even a “right.”   link

So in the meantime I am going to get on and do my own thing – and occasionally write about alternatives, when I can be bothered and am in the mood.  Nothing is going to happen for a long time yet.  And I am not putting my life on hold waiting for it.

There is a sub-culture called Preppers (look it up if you haven’t heard of it).  They are like big boy scouts: “be prepared”.  Unfortunately, that is only sane rational behaviour if disaster does actually come.  Otherwise it is delusional.

And the only way to tell the difference is actual reality – and hindsight.

Should I be preparing for what I think is ultimately inevitable?  … would’ve, could’ve, should’ve… ?  Hummppf – I’ll cross my bridges if and when I come to them.  For the rest I will live with what is

Send me a wake-up call if anything changes.

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